Yet another digital set-top box trying to bridge the gap between your TV and the Internet: Sling Media’s new SlingCatcher started selling today for $300, and will compete with similar gadgets from Apple, LG, Roku, and others, and media features on Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PS3.
What does it do?
- It lets you watch video from a Slingbox — the “place-shifter” device that streams your cable TV signal over the Internet to a PC or mobile phone — on a TV.
- It lets you watch a lot of digital movie formats that Apple TV doesn’t, like Xvid, etc. Movie pirates will enjoy this.
- It also lets you watch video from the Internet via a novel feature called SlingProjector.
How does SlingProjector work? Start playing a Hulu TV show, or Netflix movie stream, or iTunes movie, or whatever on your PC, highlight the video window on your PC screen using your mouse, and the movie streams over your home network to your SlingCatcher, which is hooked up to your TV. If it works well, that’s a neat trick, and could be a solid stand-in while we wait for companies like Hulu to make it easier to watch their videos on a TV. (One question: Can someone still use the PC for other stuff while it’s streaming that video?)
Overall, sounds like a cool device that could easily find a home with the same niche, early adopter audience that Sling’s other products have. In some ways, it’s better than Apple TV, especially its ability to play non-Apple videos and Web video streams.
But we still have a hard time seeing this taking off with mainstream audiences: Like Apple TV — hardly a commercial success — it’s an add-on, not a replacement for something people are already used to using. So people first need to figure out they need a dedicated Internet-video-watching-device, and we don’t think most people — who are just figuring out DVRs — are there yet.
And after that, they need to swallow the $300 price tag. Hard in any economy, but especially in a downturn.
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